There is an important difference between material success and salvation. From a soteriological standpoint, the latter often stands in stark contrast to the former. In fact, wealth and having children are the primary sources of internal and social strife, according to the Quranic tradition. The data also corroborates this idea. Science has shown that couples who marry later and have no children are happier than couples who marry early and have children.
The Sufi tradition provides a criterion for worldly and otherworldly success. Perhaps success equates to trekking the path of the Sufi Mystic Bayazid Bastami by virtue of contemplation and then being rewarded for contemplation by being shown God’s throne, in addition to having a vision of the Garden and watching the inhabitants of hell quarreling with one another. All these experiences are both figurative and literal indications of both worldly and otherworldly success.
Many people around the world – especially the Millennial and Gen-Z youth – are content with enough money and power to live a comfortable and happy life. What many people want is truth and justice rather than excess money and power. Piercing through the optical illusions of Modern Babylon to seek reality and truth is a challenge. But truth and justice are perhaps better valued than money and power now than ever before. With global living standards higher than ever before and with extreme poverty at all-time lows, truth and justice are the foremost priorities, not war and survivalism. As the Holy Quran states: “We have created the heavens and the earth in Truth and Justice.”
Aristotle argued that anger is justified in the face of injustice. If you are not angry in the face of injustice, then there is perhaps something wrong with you or you are a Saint. Thus, we must objectively assess why people are angry as opposed to rushing to conclusions and lodging tropes. Feeling angry in the face of injustice is something I have felt firsthand, ever since childhood. In fact, I still carry some of the anger with me. But if used constructively, anger can also be used for creativity and personal evolution. Fire can either destroy or facilitate creative uses. The late Tupac Shakur used anger, indignation, and outrage to become one of the greatest rappers – if not the greatest rapper – of all-time.
Even in Afghanistan – which is one of the most conservative societies in the world – the society has evolved to the extent that modern art and rap have become integral parts of contemporary Afghan culture. People should be free to express themselves through art, music, and literature. In the past, narrow minds in Afghan society would make a mockery out of Afghan rappers. I know this firsthand, considering that I was one of the few misfits and outcasts who helped pioneer Afghan rap in the early 2000’s when I was a teenager. Now, Afghan rappers are welcomed with open arms. This is a positive change, and it is very much welcomed on the part of people like me who have suffered to see this change in Afghan society.
Afghans living in Afghanistan are perhaps more open-minded than the Afghan diaspora in the West by virtue of these changes within Afghanistan’s culture and society. Where Afghanistan falls short is in leadership and infrastructure. Afghan leaders are too busy stuffing their own pockets and have forgotten the basics. Studies show that there is a positive correlation between electricity and clean water on one hand, and economic and social viability on the other hand. Thus, it comes as no surprise that the United States – which is the country with the most electricity and clean water – has the world’s largest GDP and total national wealth.
Personally, my experiences with young Afghans born and raised in Afghanistan who are educated – and whom I have met through the course of my studies in the United States – have been much more enlightening and pleasant than the experiences I have had with hyphenated Afghans who have lived in the West for decades. Overall, I have also derived much more pleasure engaging with Non-American youth than with American youth. Much of this has to do with the fact that as Americans, we are very much closed off from the evolutions and the trends that are occurring around the world, and as a result we are at a cultural and social loss by being confined within our comfort zone in the United States. Aside from the American media’s obsession with Trump, Americans do not have direct access to alternative sources of information from around the world. Yet, we as Americans have the nerve to give sermons to other countries about freedom and freedom of the press.
Many of us in the United States are also in an identity crisis. We neither belong here nor there. We were either brought here forcibly as in the case of African Americans, or we are here because our parents and ancestors had to escape war and persecution. Those who are the rightful owners of this land – namely, Native Americans and Hispanics – are either extinct or are mostly laborers. All of it amounts to a Greek tragicomedy when one comes to think of it. America belongs to all of us, yet it belongs to none of us. It is an incredible paradox, and the solution is to give citizenship to all Hispanics and to end voter suppression in Black communities.
The long-standing policy of the Anglo-American establishment has been clear: democracy and freedom at home, control and tyranny abroad. But with birth rates and demographics changing between whites and non-whites within the Western world, whites are resorting to control and tyranny within their own borders, as evinced by Trump, all at the expense of democracy and freedom. I was once a fervent believer in American exceptionalism. Not anymore.
Moreover, people of color from around the world are tired of being dominated by white supremacists in a passive-aggressive and violent manner and told how to live in a condescending way. We are also tired of the dissolution of communities of color which result from white hegemony. Nevertheless, one must keep in mind that the cultures which are most marginalized and oppressed — namely, the Afro-Islamic and Asian cultures — are the most superior when considering their acknowledgment of the hylomorphic nature of man. Those major powers who brag about their way of life should keep in mind the Spanish proverb: “Tell me what you brag about, and I’ll tell you what you lack.”
But what mitigates my anger and frustration in most cases is the promise that truth and justice will eventually prevail, along with the promise of change and progress. Sooner or later, everything will return to its rightful owners, and things will assume their natural course throughout the remainder of human history. Historic wrongs will eventually be righted, based on what we have been promised by prophecy. Much of what occurred over the course of the last couple of centuries during the age of Anglo-American hegemony was anomalous when taking a long view of human history into account. Thus, things will either correct themselves or there will be a certain level of turbulence before things pan out for the overall good. But with the promise of change, progress, truth, and justice, there is something to be hopeful about. In sum, the key is to embody the change, progress, truth, and justice that we seek. “Either evolve or die.” There is no other option.